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Alternative Names Return to topPituitary insufficiency
Definition Return to top
Hypopituitarism is a condition in which the pituitary gland does not produce normal amounts of some or all of its hormones.
Causes Return to top
The pituitary gland is a small structure that is located just below the brain. It is attached by a stalk to the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls its function.
The hormones released by the pituitary gland (and their functions) are:
In hypopituitarism, there is a lack of one or more pituitary hormones. Lack of the hormone leads to loss of function in the gland or organ that it controls. For example, no TSH leads to loss of function in the thyroid gland.
Hypopituitarism may be caused by:
Occasionally, hypopituitarism is due to uncommon immune system or metabolic diseases, such as:
Hypopituitarism is also a rare complication after pregnancy, a condition called Sheehan's syndrome.
Symptoms Return to top
Note: Symptoms may develop slowly and may vary greatly, depending upon:
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
Exams and Tests Return to top
To diagnose hypopituitarism, there must be low hormone levels due to a problem with the pituitary gland. The diagnosis must also rule out diseases of the organ that is affected by this hormone.
Levels of a pituitary hormone may be high in the bloodstream if you have a pituitary tumor that is producing too much of that hormone. The tumor may crush the rest of the cells of the pituitary, leading to low levels of other hormones.
Treatment Return to top
If hypopituitarism is caused by a tumor, you may need surgery to remove the tumor, with or without radiation therapy. It is often necessary to replace hormones that are lacking, even after successful treatment of a pituitary tumor.
Hormone therapy is needed to replace hormones that are no longer made by organs under the control of the pituitary gland. These may include:
Drugs are also available to treat related infertility in men and women.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Hypopituitarism is usually permanent and requires lifelong treatment. However, you can expect a normal life span.
Possible Complications Return to top
Side effects of drug therapy can develop. In severe illness, failing to take extra corticosteroids can be life-threatening.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of hypopituitarism.
Prevention Return to top
In most cases, the disorder is not preventable. Awareness of risk may allow early diagnosis and treatment.
References Return to top
Melmed S, Kleinberg D. Anterior pituitary. In: Kronenberg H, Melmed S, Polonsky K, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 8.Update Date: 3/18/2008 Updated by: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed byDavid Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.